Effect of sildenafil on hypoxia-induced changes in pulmonary circulation and right ventricular function

Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2007 Nov 15;159(2):196-201. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2007.07.005. Epub 2007 Jul 27.


Hypoxia leads to pulmonary vasoconstriction in healthy men. However, the consequences on right ventricular function are not known. The effects of hypoxia on systolic pulmonary artery pressure (sPAP) and right ventricular function index (TEI) were assessed by Doppler echocardiography. Fourteen members of a Mount Everest expedition were monitored during acute hypoxic challenge at sea level, environmental hypoxia exposure at altitudes of 3440 m and 5245 m and 2 weeks after return to sea level. Subjects received either placebo or 50mg sildenafil in a double-blind randomised cross-over design. Under normoxia at baseline, mean sPAP was 17.1(S.E.M. 1.3) mm Hg, and TEI was 0.13(0.004). Both increased during acute hypoxia: sPAP 29.6(2.6) mm Hg, and TEI 0.35(0.06) (each p<0.01). At 5245 m sPAP was 29.1(1.7) and TEI was 0.43(0.05) in the placebo group, while in the sildenafil group, both sPAP and TEI were reduced to 22(1.5) mm Hg and 0.23(0.03) (each p<0.005), respectively. We conclude that in healthy individuals, exposure to acute hypoxia and sojourns at high altitude result in a small but significant increase in sPAP accompanied by an impairment of right ventricular function. Sildenafil significantly decreases sPAP and improves right ventricular function.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Altitude
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Echocardiography, Doppler / methods
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / drug therapy*
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mountaineering / physiology
  • Piperazines / therapeutic use*
  • Pulmonary Circulation / drug effects*
  • Purines / therapeutic use
  • Sildenafil Citrate
  • Sulfones / therapeutic use*
  • Vasodilator Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Ventricular Function, Right / drug effects*


  • Piperazines
  • Purines
  • Sulfones
  • Vasodilator Agents
  • Sildenafil Citrate